Banquet wraps up awesome Lightning season

Members of the Badger Lightning varsity hockey posed for a team photo at the end of their season ending banquet at Monk’s at the Wilderness on Thursday night. Jim den Hollander Photo

By Jim den Hollander  

Editor/Publisher 

Saukhockey.info 

The Badger Lightning varsity hockey team celebrated its most successful season since 2015-16 and said goodbye to a trio of seniors that have acted as leaders for two full seasons with the season ending banquet held at Monk’s at the Wilderness on Thursday (March 10). 

The highlight of the night came near the end with the presentation of the team’s major awards. First-year Audrey Hanko received the team’s Most Improved Player Award, sophomore defender Zoey Udelohofen receiving the Sportsmanship plaque, senior defender Carson Blosenski accepting the Top Defensive Award and the MVP Trophy shared by linemates, senior Signe Begalske and junior Kayla Capener. 

After enjoying some social time and a nice meal at the Monk’s downstairs banquet hall, Badger Lightning fundraising president Donald Coxe welcomed players and parents and thanked his fellow board members, John Gunnell (Vice President), Amber Selje (Treasurer), Micki Cone (Secretary) and Member at Large, David Benson. 

Coxe encouraged parents to help out as new members will be needed for the Board and also ideas for fundraising which have helped the team with off season ice purchasing and buses for road games this past season.  

Head Coach Rick Capener took over and first thanked his assistants, John Blosenski, Josh Cone and Katharyn Vander Schaaf. He also thanked Monk’s who not only hosted the banquet, but supplied the team’s ‘Away’ meals this season. 

Before giving individual recognition to every team member, Capener paid tribute to the team’s three seniors, outlining the four-year path of the team during their time with the club. In 2018-19, the Lightning endured a tough 1-15 season, outscored 106-38 and combining on 71 penalty minutes. 

The following season saw the team improve to 5-16 with both goals for and against rising, due in part to five extra games played. The team was outscored 161-66 with a steep rise in penalty minutes to 178 total. 

Last season the pandemic limited the squad to 17 home games and an overall regular seaosn record of 6-11. The goals for and against differential was 0 (61-61) thanks to a 26-12 edge for the Lightning in third periods. 

In 2021-22 the Lighting posted a 9-13 record with a 76-73 edge in scoring overall and 119 PIM, one more minute than their opponents. 

“Every season was an improvement,” summed up the coach adding Carson Blosenski, Signe Begalske and Emily Gunnell faced a unique challenge . Since the team had no seniors last season they have been running the ship on and off the ice for two full seasons. 

Before issuing the primary awards Capener introduced and highlighted the accomplishent of each player on his team.

FIRST-YEARS

With no graduations from the previous season, the Lightning grew from a two-line team to a three-line team over the summer with the addition of a trio of newcomers. 

Kayla Garbacz (5g, 9ts, 12 PIM), Hanko (2g, 5 pts, 2 PIM) both made their presence felt quickly and helped add depth to the team while Reese Olson (9g, 19 pts, 8 PIM) was ultimately slotted into the team’s scoring line with Begalske and Capener and finished third on the team in scoring. 

All three players received their first varsity letters, Olson also earning a hat trick medal. 

SOPHOMORES

Capener praised his four sophomores for not just their improvement but their ability to adapt and handle different positions when called on.  

Katelyn Allen (3g, 8pts, 2 PIM) was asked to switch from defense to forward and Capener said she handled it well.  

Madchen Ewig (2g, 6pts, 6 PIM, found her way as a contributing forward in her first year, switching from a defender for much of her years in youth hockey. Her and Udelhofen (2A, 2 PIM) both made the ultimate jump this season, patrolling the crease in a game apiece as sophomores. 

Between the pipes, Alyssa Gada built on her impressive First-Year season posting eight of the team’s nine wins and kicking out 494 of 560 shots and collecting two shutouts. 

Both Gada and Udelhofen received shutout medals. Allen and Udelhofen adding their first varsity letter. Ewig and Gada both added a second varsity letter. 

JUNIORS

The group that will step into the leadership role in 2022-23 were among the top competitors this past season both on offense and defense.  

Eryn Benson (5g, 14 pts, 10 PIM) was once again the top points contributor from the blue line corps and Capener said he has developed a heavy and accurate shot from the blue line that will make here even more dangerous as a senior.  

At the other end of the spectrum was Lily McPherson (3g, 10 pts, 10 PIM), not bad offense for a player described by Capener as a defensive defender. 

Lani Selje (3g, 7 pts, 21PIM) was an aggreisive player also willing to play wherever needed for the Lightnng. 

When it came to adversity, none faced more than Bella Bowden (1g, 8 PIM) who didn’t get a chance to suit up for the Lightning until January and soon after suffered a concussion that limited her to just six games. 

Having proven herself as one of the fastest players in the conference the previous season, Capener said he is excited to see what Bowden can bring in a full season as a senior. 

Mallory Ruland (8g, 9 pts, 0 PIM) is another player that showed her willingness to fill a different role this past season. After a season as a winger on the team’s scoring line as a sophomore, Ruland centered the second line and became a penalty killing specialist. Capener, who has challenged the team to lower its penalty minutes n 2022-23 was particularly proud of her penalty free season.  

Kayla Capener (16g, 38pts, 20 PIM) was a junior captain and led by example becoming the second player in team history to reach the 100 point plateau. 

She was on the ice in all situations and led the team in scoring for a second season. 

All six players received their third varsity letter. Ruland and Capener both earned hat trick medals, Capener and Benson both adding playmaker (three assists) medals. 

SENIORS

Before honoring his three seniors, the other 13 team members each gave a brief, personal thank you for the trio. 

Capener said Emily Gunnell (2g, 3pts, 0 PIM) was “One of the smartest players I’ve coached,” and said dating back to her youth seasons, she was an unofficial team mother and she was another player that put up a penalty-free season this time around. 

Blosenski (4g, 13 pts, 10 PIM) was a team captain in both her junior and seniors seasons. In both seasons, she was the team’s defensive anchor and played a big role on the penalty kill.  

Begalske (13g, 30 pts, 8 PIM) came to the Lightning as a junior and her senior season saw her step up in a big way both as a leader and an offenisive threat, forming a great trio along with Capener and Olson. 

Begalske received her second varsity level, Gunnell and Blosenski both picking up their fourth. Begalske added both a hat trick and playmaker medal to her list of accomplishments. 

With the team slated to receive new jerseys in the fall, the three seniors were also each presented with their game jerseys from this past season.  

Finally, all-Badger Conference honors were announced, Capener named to the Second Team and Begalske receiving Honorable Mention. 

Badger Lightning coaches and major award winners include from left: Kathryn Vander Schaaf (Asst. Coach); Josh Cone (Asst. Coach); Signe Begalske (Co-MVP); Audrey Hanko (Most Improved Player); Carson Blosenski (Best Defense); John Blosenski (Asst. Coach); Zoey Udelhofen (Sportsmanship); Kayla Capener (Co-MVP) and Rick Capener (Head Coach).

Fun but stressful week of WIAA playoffs

By Jim den Hollander  

Editor/Publisher  

Saukhockey.info 

Jimmy D’s Notes

  • The WIAA hockey post season has to be the most exciting, but also the most heartbreaking time of the hockey season. With my own coverage of four Sauk County teams, there was plenty of both.  

Baraboo/Portage Thunderbirds  

  • First, the Baraboo/Portage Thunderbirds came up with what had to be their grittiest and best defensive effort for 34 minutes against the RWD Cheavers. For seniors like Oliver Scanlan, Gabe Fitzwilliams and in particular, goaltender Andrew Schaetzl among others they clearly saved their best for last and it was tough the game got away from them down the stretch against an RWD team that seemed to be on a misson. Another regular contributor was senior forward Zach Huffaker.
  •  It was a tough season from the start for the Thunderbirds with illness and injury among the contributing factors — three Thunderbird seniors — Kyle Poole, Luna Larson and Charlie Gibbs unforunately combined to appear in just 17 games.

RWD Cheavers 

  • A couple nights later and again, one of the Sauk County teams was leaving with heads low no matter what the final. The Eagles shrugged off a couple regular season losses against the Cheavers, using a key span in the middle period to put up four goals and then hold off a desperate RWD team through the game’s second half.  
  • For RWD, a group of players that have played varsity minutes since their freshman year – senior goaltender Cooper Oakes who will likely hold most of his team goaltending records for several seasons. Senior forward CJ Pfaff has had a great run. His grit and ability to kill time or find space when none seemed available made him a player that had to be on the ice in any close game. Senior forward Trevor Slaght, one of the best skaters around. It’s no coincidence, the team’s great 14-2 run that started in mid-December started right around the time Slaght made his surprisingly early return from an acl injury. 
  • Another surprise, the play of senior forward Tomas Korndorfer who was likely the team’s best sniper and played a part in giving the team two top lines 1A and 1B. 
  • On the blue line the tireless defensive play of senior Ty Thompson the team’s hardest hitter and Grant Marsich, also a physical force with a heavy shot and a knack for getting under the skin of his opponents. 
  • Depth forwards Carter Scully, Mitch Henke and Malachi Strompolis-Salama who made the most of every second they played for the varsity team and helped in a way many didn’t see – contributing their leadership and winning attitude to create an amazing competitive season for the players that will carry that into the future of the RWD program. 

Badger Lightning  

  • Official results are not available as this is written but a third Sauk County team wrapped up its season with a tough 3-0 defeat at Sun Prairie Ice Arena against the host Cap City Cougars.  
  • It was a different Lightning team that walked onto the ice there than the one that succumbed 8-0 a few years ago. Granted, the Cougars are a younger team this season, but the three Lightning seniors – Carson Blosenski, Signe Begalske and Emily Gunnel spent two seasons leading this team because there were no seniors on a short-staffed team last season.  
  • It says here, the Lightning will win its first playoff game in several seasons a year from now…it will be on home ice and the three players who are leaving the Lightning will deserve some credit for it. 
  • An official story on the game played Friday in Sun Prairie will appear on this facebook page later this weekend.

This is the first of a number of editorial type stories that will be posted in the next few days/weeks. One thing about the end of the hectic varsity season, it will give me a chance to say and thank a lot of people that I just haven’t had the time to do yet. 

But, for now, please join me in cheering on the Sauk Prairie Eagles. Let’s hope the third time is the charm at the Sectional semis and this is the team that can find a way past the Badger West Conference Champion Madison Edgewood Crusaders. 

Go get it boys. 

Badger Lightning hopes the future is now

WIAA Varsity Girls Regional Finals Preview

BADGER LIGHTNING @ CAP CITY COUGARS

By Jim den Hollander 

Editor/Publisher 

Saukhockey.info 

The Badger Lightning finished a bit under .500 at 9-13 this past season, it’s best campaign since 2014-15. 

The girls however face a tough task ahead, moving into the post season against the Cap City Cougars Friday (Feb. 18) at Sun Prairie Ice Arena at 7 p.m.  

While they managed nine wins, the Cougars remain a tough nut to crack for the locals who fell 6-1 at the Ice Pond in Waunakee Dec. 6, but came up with a much tougher challenge on home ice at Pierce Park Pavilion Feb. 3 taking the Cougars to overtime before falling 2-1. 

That bodes well for a Lightning team that has faced the Cougars 21 times dating back to the 2011-12 season and dropped 20. The one and only win for the Lightning was the second meeting, a decade ago (Jan. 12, 2012).  

The Lightning earned a 3-2 edge with goals from Leigh Stawinoga and Hannah Juckett and the game winner off the stick of Rachel Pawlak. Current Lightning seniors Carson Blosenski, Signe Begalske and Emily Gunnel were second graders, possibly playing for mite teams in their respective towns. 

But while the history has been rough against this opponent, the future looks great for the squad. They will still be a definite underdog heading into this match as a six seed against a three seed, but this season and that last performance, just a few weeks ago should give them at least a bit of jump in their step heading to a rink that has never been friendly. 

The team has seen its numbers rise this season and the talent level of the incoming players this season sees a deeper and more balanced attack.  

Junior Kayla Capener, who reached a milestone with her 100th varsity point in the final game of the regular season is the offensive leader as she was a year ago, with 16 goals and 38 points. Begalske has been right with Capener for much of the campaign, putting up 13 goal and 30 points. While they have been key contributors on most nights, first-year Reese Olson has made her presence felt with nine goals and 19 points.  

Kayla Capener, kneeling in front became the second Badger Lightning player to hit the 100-point plateau with an assist in the final game of the WIAA regular season. Team members with Capener include (in no particular order). Bella Bowden, Zoey Udelhofen, Emily Gunnell, Audrey Hanko, Madchen Ewig, Lani Selje, Katelyn Allen, Mallory Ruland, Kayla Garbacz, Lily McPherson, Carson Blosenski, Eryn Benson, Reese Olson and Signe Begalske. Absent from the photo is goaltender Alyssa Gada.

A secret weapon for the Lightning is junior Bella Bowden who missed all but six games this season. She showed explosive speed last season, pouncing on loose pucks in the neutral zone and leaving defenders in her wake. She scored her first goal in the final game of the season and her presence could be a difference maker in close game.  

If the offense is set up junior Mallory Ruland is player that can make her presence felt with a hard shot and quick release. While Bowden is dangerous on the rush, Ruland is best when she can position herself and one-time a pass home. 

Other names have shown up on game sheets on a more regular basis in the second half of the season including first year Kayla Garbacz,  

Defensively, Blosenski and junior Eryn Benson make their presence felt at both ends and the key on defense is sophomore goaltender Alyssa Gada who is accustomed to facing a lot of shots. She recorded seven of the team’s nine wins and collected two shutouts, tying her for second on the all-time list with Gabby Christensen and Kelcie McElhenie.  

The season has already been a huge success no matter what happens on Friday, but don’t count the Lightning out. They have nothing to lose, and they will be ready for the challenge. 

Badger Lightning Junior captain Kayla Capener
Badger Lightning Senior captain Signe Begalske
Badger Lightning Senior Captain Carson Blosenski
Badger Lightning Head Coach Rick Capener

Begalske leads Lightning to four weekend wins

By Jim den Hollander 

Editor/Publisher 

Saukhockey.info 

This must be a first in WIAA hockey history. The Badger Lightning varsity hockey team turned a six-game losing streak into a four-game winning streak in 24 hours this past weekend (Jan. 28-29). 

The team made the trip to Beaver Dam Family Ice Center and picked up an 11-0 shutout against the host Golden Beavers Friday night. 

After spending the night in Beaver Dam, the team returned to ice and collected three wins Saturday, 6-1 and 4-2 against the Medford Raiders and another shutout against the host Golden Beavers 7-0. 

Lightning 11 Golden Beavers 0 

Best thing about the opening contest of the weekend was probably the array of players collecting points. 

The Lightning carried a 3-0 lead out of the opening period and piled on another five in the middle frame before wrapping it up with three more down the stretch. 

 Six different shooters scored in the contest, led by senior Signe Begalske who continued her awesome season with three goals and an assist.   

Junior Kayla Capener, senior defender Carson Blosenski and first-year Kayla Garbacz each scored twice, Capener also picking up four set ups in the match.  

Another first-year, Reese Olson scored a goal with an assist as well, the other goal scored by sophomore Madchen Ewig along with an assist and junior Lily McPherson had an assist as well.  

Sophomore goaltender Alyssa Gada kicked out the six shots fired at her to pick up her second shutout of the season.  

Lightning 6 Raiders 1 

The girls kicked off a three-game Saturday, scoring two unanswered first period goals and outscored the Raiders 3-1 in the second before adding one more in the final 17.

This time Olson stepped up for the offense with her first varsity hat trick, Begalske adding a goal and three assists while Capener also set up three.  

Other goals came from Junior defender Eryn Benson and senior Emily Gunnell, Benson adding an assist.  

Blosenski also had a helper and Gada kicked out 15 of 16 shots she faced.  

Lightning 7 Golden Beavers 0  

In the middle game Saturday, the Lightning and Gada picked up its second goose egg of the weekend, the goaltender stopping four to grab the win.  

Lightning outshot its host 39-4 and that paid off with three unanswered first period goals and two in both the second and final periods. 

Olson and Begalske continued their torrid pace with two goals and an assist each, Capener adding a goal and two helpers.  

Other goals came from Benson and McPherson who also picked up an assist.  

Blosenski and first-year Audrey Hanko collected assists in the game. 

Lightning 4 Raiders 2  

The final game was the closest, but despite the heavy workload, the Lightning still controlled the contest, outscoring Medford 2-1 in the first and second periods and playing through a scoreless final frame.  

Gada allowed just three goals and 12 periods, stopping another 10 to pick up her fourth straight win. 

Begalske picked up her seventh and eighth goals of the weekend and Capener notched a goal and assist. The other goal came from Ewig with single assists for Blosenski and McPherson. 

The wins boosted the Lightning’s overall mark to 9-8 and the Lightning was scheduled to play again Tuesday (Feb. 1) at Pierce Park Pavilion, a 7 p.m. start against the Warbirds (11-6-1, 4-2-1 Eastern Shores Conference).  

That will leave the team with four games to play beginning Thursday against the Cap City Cougars (10-10, 6-3 Badger Conference). 

Ruhland hat trick leads Lightning past Golden Beavers

Jim den Hollander 

Editor/Publisher 

Saukhockey.info 

The Badger Lightning varsity hockey team is looking for a big improvement this season and served notice of that with a 10-1 win in its first of two meetings against the Beaver Dam Golden Beavers at Pierce Park Pavilion on Saturday. 

With an additional five players (three freshmen and two sophomores) in the lineup this season, Head Coach Rick Capener has been hoping for a more potent and balanced offensive attack and that appeared to be the case in this game as the team had 13 skaters in the lineup and every one of them collected at least a point.  

Leading the charge was junior Mallory Ruhland coming off a before season with the South Central WEHL squad. Ruhland fired three goals and set up another while Katelyn Allen fired her first two WIAA goals and added an assist as well.  

Junior Kayla Capener notched a goal and two assists and junior defender Eryn Benson set up three.  Senior defenseman Carson Blosenski and forwards Lani Selje and Lily McPherson each picked up a goal and assist. 

First-year forward Reese Olson who also played with a South Central WEHL team in the early fall, scored her first varsity goal. Freshman Kayla Garbacz, senior Emily Gunnell, sophomore Madchen Ewig, senior Signe Begalske and Audrey Hanko each picked up an assist in the game.  

Sophomore goaltender Alyssa Gada came up big when needed in goal, beaten just once on 10 shots as the Lightning opened the season with a 38-10 edge in shots. 

The first game of the pair also counts as a conference match so the Lightning are 1-0 in Badger Conference play now as well.